The many things to see in Florence generally concentrate on the glorious art and architecture for which the city is renowned and that was the central spark of the Italian Renaissance. The history of the regional capital of Tuscany and the luminaries who formed the city stretch back to before the time of Christ, and the Florence attractions present a dream come true for art lovers.
If you are coming from the direction of Pisa or Siena, your first sightseeing in Florence will occur before you ever get into the city. The road comes to the hills above the Arno River’s south bank, from which you can see the beautiful city spread out below you. The scene is punctuated by Brunelleschi’s dominating dome atop the Florence Duomo and the rich sculptural Giotto campanile (bell tower) in the same square.
The river snakes through the city, highlighting the lovely Basilica of Santa Croce and other Florence attractions along its course and giving you a taste of what you’re about to experience. It pays to get yourself a map before you set off on sightseeing in Florence as the city is quite spread out and it is fairly easy to lose your bearings. Fortunately, many of the most important things to see in Florence are set in a fairly compact manner along the Arno. If you do get lost, look up for the Duomo dome and Giotto campanile to get reoriented. Right in Piazza del Duomo is the lovely Baptistery del San Giovanni, with its three sets of incredible bronze doors.
The Florence attractions within a mile of the Duomo are many, and they include some of the most popular sights. Just a couple blocks to the north is the Basilica of San Lorenzo, burial place of the Medici family. Its rather plain brick exterior (Michelangelo’s plans for the façade were never completed) hides the incredible art treasures inside. A couple blocks north of the Basilica of San Lorenzo is the Galleria dell’Accademia, home of Michelangelo’s David, one of the most iconic sculptures in the world.
From the Duomo, walk less than a fifth of mile south towards the river during your sightseeing in Florence and you will reach one of the most important repositories of art in the world—the Uffizi Gallery. Here are Botticelli’s famous paintings, The Birth of Venus and La Primavera. There is Caravaggio’s portrait of Bacchus, da Vinci’s Adoration of the Magi, and even paintings by the great Dutch Master Rembrandt from the Netherlands.
Among the things to see in Florence are the historic bridges spanning the Arno River. From the Uffizi, the river is less than a block south. Stroll west along its banks for another 1,000 feet or so to the most famous of them all, the beautiful medieval Ponte Vecchio. As you cross over this famous bridge, you can even get in some shopping at jewelry shops, art galleries, and souvenir shops—just as was the custom in medieval days. The world is fortunate that this was the only of the Arno bridges in Florence not destroyed in World War II. On the other side of the bridge, you will find the huge, lushly landscaped Boboli Gardens, with its fine collection of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century statuary and some Roman ruins. Near here is the beautiful Pitti Palace, once the chief residence of the Medici family and opulently furnished and decorated. Today it serves as one of the Florence museums and art galleries.